"In a time of great shift we must respond in kind,” the writer and editor Meaghan O’Connell recently wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. "The media industry needs a new genre: gift guide criticism.”
O’Connell’s wry observation refers to the mini-industry of online shopping guides that has expanded exponentially in the last decade. A Google search for "gift guide” yields over 255 million results — and that’s just in English.
It makes sense in a media landscape challenged by declining advertising revenue and print subscribers that many publishers have sought alternate revenue streams that include affiliate marketing. Legacy media brands (and the writers and editors that once worked at them, many of whom have flocked to Substack) are capitalizing on their reputation as tastemakers by building entire ecosystems around product recommendations, pegging guides to holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah and Mother’s Day.